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NEWS-Burma Shakeup Aims to Fix Imag
- Subject: NEWS-Burma Shakeup Aims to Fix Imag
- From: BurmaJapan@xxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 10:24:00
Burma Shakeup Aims to Fix Image, Not Change Policy
By Deborah Charles
BANGKOK, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The recent shake-up
of Burma's military government weeded out corrupt
ministers and promoted some army officers but was
unlikely to yield major policy changes soon,
analysts and diplomats said on Thursday.
Burma's surprise creation of a new ruling body, the
State Peace and Development Council (SPDC),
replacing the State Law and Order Restoration
Council (SLORC), was more of an effort to change
the government's image than to revamp its policies.
``The name change is better and some people here
are quite hopeful,'' one Rangoon-based diplomat
said. ``There are a lot of reasons for the changes.
But we haven't seen anything on new policies at
SLORC, abolished when the changes took effect on
Saturday, had ruled the country with an iron hand
since it seized power in 1988. But the new SPDC is
headed by the same four leaders of the SLORC and
is led by Senior General Than Shwe, who also
serves as prime minister and defence minister.
The rest of the 19-member SPDC is made up of
new military officials, mostly younger regional
commanders. This move was seen as an effort to
appease younger officers who had been thought to
be causing a split in the SLORC, analysts said.
Unlike the former government, in which many
SLORC officials were also in the cabinet, Than
Shwe is the only SPDC member to hold a cabinet
Most diplomats agreed the main thrust of the
changes was to improve the image of a government
accused of rampant corruption as the country
suffered a severe economic slump.
But although several new ministers are seen as
capable, the fact few technocrats were given
portfolios showed the generals' main motive was
not to change economic policy.
``If they'd wanted a solution to the economy they
would have promoted more technocrats,'' the first
Four of the country's more prominent ministers
dealing with financial issues were removed from the
ruling council and put on a newly-created
14-member Advisory Council.
They include ex-SLORC member Lieutenant
General Kyaw Ba, the former tourism minister. He
was often used as a spokesman for the SLORC as
he worked to make tourism one of the biggest
money-making sectors for the country.
The other three were former trade and commerce
minister Lieutenant-General Tun Kyi, former forestry
minister Lieutenant-General Chit Swe and the
previous agriculture minister Lieutenant-General
``All those ministries had a lot of possibility for
kick-backs and payoffs,'' said another
Rangoon-based diplomat. ``Even within the
government here they were considered corrupt.''
Diplomats and analysts said the role of the Advisory
Council -- made up of several former SLORC
members, most of whom were over the age of 60 --
was not certain.
``Nobody's sure what the Advisory Council will do
but it includes 14 people who were not wanted in
the government,'' the second diplomat said.
``It will be interesting to watch not only the Advisory
Council but what happens to these people. There's
talk here that they are under house arrest, and talk
they are in total shock and don't know which way to
The main question after the shake-up was whether
or not the hardliners within the old SLORC -- said to
be at loggerheads with Than Shwe and powerful
military intelligence chief Lieutenant-General Khin
Nyunt -- had gained ground.
``It's still a bit too early to say who's who and who's
in which camp,'' the second diplomat said.
But the newly created post of Secretary Three was
given to Lieutenant General Win Myint, who was
seen as loyal to General Maung Aye, the hardline
vice-chairman of the SPDC.
The new government had not given any hint as to
any changes of policy, and the SLORC's old
objective and policy statements were being run as
usual in official media.
Diplomats said a key test for the government would
be next week when the National League for
Democracy, led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San
Suu Kyi, holds a party gathering.
``Under this new lot it is more likely that it will be
held,'' the first diplomat said, noting that could help
relations on both sides. The SLORC has cracked
down on Suu Kyi's activities recently, leading to
fresh condemnation from abroad.